Protecting Your Collection

By Katherine Ernst
Photography by Ned Manter
and Walter Greeley

Now that we have considered placement, let's address the business of keeping your art safe and tidy. Homeowners are usually not inclined to construct in-home galleries that meet archival standards for preservation. Cape Cod homeowners can take precautions that will allow them to be continually inspired by their collections while preventing exposure to extremes in humidity, temperature and light. 

Blinds, curtains and specially-treated windows can block out ultraviolet rays that can fade pigments. Incandescent light causes less fading but its intense heat can cause burning.  Placing your art out of the range of the light pouring in your windows is a simple way to lessen the effects of harmful rays. If picture lights on individual paintings must be used, choose low-watt (25 or less) bulbs. Keep the light as far from the art as possible and turn the light on infrequently.

If you shut your home down for the winter and leave the heat off, your collection will be subject to drastic changes in temperature and humidity. In newer, well-sealed homes, a lack of circulation can encourage high humidity, increasing the risks of mold, fungus and mildew. Low humidity can cause cracking and shrinking. A total lack of light can alter pigments and promote mold growth on oil paintings.

Oil paintings are somewhat protected from the elements with a varnish coat applied by the artist. Prints, watercolors and pastels are framed under glass or Plexiglas to preserve the paper. Artists and framers have been aware of the importance of using only acid-free paper and mats for decades. Using archival materials when doing your own framing will prolong the life of your art.

It is strongly advised that cherished works of art be cleaned or restored only by experienced professionals. Regular dusting of frames should be done carefully with a clean, lint-free cloth. When cleaning glass, a damp cloth will prevent static electricity from drawing paper or pastel dust towards the glass. Never apply water or glass cleaner directly to the glass as it can run along the glass and onto the art. 

As diligent as you may be in caring for your collection, you will want to confer with your insurance  agent regarding unforeseen circumstances. Be sure to update your policy as the value of your collection increases.

The diagonal placement of the couch maximizes the views of activity within the open space as well as the exterior landscape. The two oil paintings by Arnold Demarais are cozily balanced by the plant. They are lit by hidden track lighting which can be adjusted to properly light a continually-changing display of paintings and sculptures. Thomas W. McCanna’s Garden Doves bring new personalities to the living room while Al Davis’ sea gull adds a touch of whimsy to the hearth.